Southeast: Capitol Hill South a Diamond in the Rough for Renters

Library of Congress

By the books: The Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building, located on First Street, is a conspicuous landmark for Southeast residents. The Library houses some 32 million books, including the continent’s largest rare book collection.

Yes, Southeast has a bit of a bad reputation – much of it earned.

But people outside the city might be surprised to know that located next to the rougher areas is the fairly opulent neighborhood of Capitol Hill South. (While this may not be an official name, for the purposes of this blog, that’s what we’re calling it.)

Many people, especially those whose interaction with the area is limited to Union Station or its immediate environs, forget that the Capitol Hill neighborhood doesn’t just reside in the Northeast quadrant, but in Southeast as well. The barrier, East Capitol Street, is a mere afterthought for most residents.

As far as nightlife goes, Southeast has got its cousin to the north beat, hands down. And it must be noted that the city’s four quadrants all meet at the United States Capitol, the physical seat of the legislature for the country, so Southeast can claim, in a sense, a quarter of that. Thought about in the airy abstract, that’s impressive no matter how you slice it. And here’s a Buck 119 Special to help you along.

As of July 1, 2009, Washington, D.C., had 599,657 residents, with the metro region itself coming in at just under 5.5 million. Yes, there are a lot of people here. Southeast has seven Metro stations to help renters get around: four on the Blue/Orange Line and three on the Green Line.

Getting back to the neighborhood quadrant rivalry … If you’re looking for an apartment in Southeast, you’ll be pleased to know that there are at least as many fun things to do in Capitol Hill South as there are in Capitol Hill North.

For example, there’s Eastern Market. If you’re familiar with the city, you’ll recognize the name, even if you’ve never been there. If you haven’t, that’s OK; we like late bloomers. Living in Capitol Hill South puts you within walking distance of this famous outdoor market.

Eastern Market itself has two guises. From Tuesday through Friday, South Hall Market operates as a traditional grocer, selling produce, meat, seafood, cheese, pasta and baked goods. On weekends, outdoor vendors are added to the bustling hall in the form of the Weekend Farmers’ Line, where local farmers sell fresh produce year-round. In addition to this is the Weekend Outdoor Market, where scads of local merchants sell everything from objets d’art to flowers – even antiques, which makes sense as Eastern Market’s history goes back 137 years.

It gets better (You’re at home, reading this in your white terry cloth bathrobe, hubby in the shower, chai in hand, thinking, “How could that possibly be?!”), because stationed right outside the market on the grounds of Hine Junior High School is the Flea Market at Eastern Market. Open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., this flea market has been around for 27 years itself and features the usual bric-a-brac, plus some more bric-a-brac: antiques, furniture, art, crafts, jewelry, used stuff, collectibles and books. There’s a little something for everyone. Even you. Hey, drink that chai; it’s getting cold.

Like much of the city, Capitol Hill South is extremely walkable, and churches and restaurants dot its landscape, particularly on one of the most famous streets in the nation: Pennsylvania Avenue. There are many bars and restaurants along this strip, with food offerings that range from Mexican, Thai and sushi to American, Chinese, Pakistani and Indian Tandoori. Two of the city’s best cheap eats are here: La Lomita Dos and Thai Roma Restaurant & Conrad’s Pub. I’m such a non-food snob that I think these are among the best restaurants I’ve been to – ever. So I’m not Anthony Bourdain.

If you live here, you must come down to Pennsylvania Avenue every so often to check out the vibrant atmosphere and wonderful culinary delights. One of my favorite bars is here, as well: Capitol Lounge. With three bars and a pool table, it’s a lot of fun. Other notable bars are the appropriately-named Hawk ’n’ Dove and Pour House. There are also two great used bookstores here: Capitol Hill Books and Riverby Books. Plus, you’ll find a Harris Teeter and a Safeway.

[ Related: Capitol Hill’s Riverby Books Stacks Up With the Best of Them ]

Of course, getting hammered or satiated is only part of the fun in Capitol Hill South, because you’re also close to cultural and historic institutions. On an ambitious stroll, a renter might check out the Library of Congress Experience at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, take in a play at the Folger Shakespeare Library, walk on down to Pennsylvania Avenue for dinner and a few drinks, then catch a Washington Nationals game (some of the more timid renters might wanna take the subway there).

All in all, Capitol Hill South is a fabulous place to live, work and play. Check out Apartment Showcase for available apartments in the area and get in on the action!

Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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